A winter with few storms has left San Diego with the widest beaches in a decade — in some cases as much as 50 feet wider — the Scripps Institution of Oceanography reported Tuesday.
Scripps said beaches are 33 to 50 feet wider than after an average winter, and up to 80 feet wider than in early 2010 during the last El Niño winter storms.
“Cardiff, Solana Beach, and Imperial Beach are wide at least partially because they were nourished with sand in fall 2012, but Torrey Pines was not nourished recently, and the winter beach there is the widest in 10 years,” said Scripps oceanographer Robert Guza, the beach survey project leader.
Scripps researchers measured the beach width using readings from GPS units mounted on Jet Skis and all-terrain vehicles.
High and steep winter waves move sand from near the waterline to an offshore sandbar, narrowing the beach available for recreational use. Gentler summer swell pushes sand back upslope and widens the beach.
This winter, which officially ends on March 20, has been unusually mild with fewer, less intense storms.
“Wave heights at the Scripps Torrey Pines offshore buoy never exceeded three meters (10 feet) and only topped two meters (seven feet) for about 40 hours, compared with 190 hours in an average winter,” said Scripps graduate student and survey member Sean Crosby. “The few high waves that did occur coincided with lower-range neap tides, minimizing shoreline erosion.”